My name is Hana,
and I decided to research the Japanese perspective of World War II. I culturally identify with Japan for I am half Japanese,
and have always felt like a child of both worlds – America and Japan. Therefore, World War II has always been controversial
for me for obvious reasons – the United States and Japan were on opposing sides during the war. However, I believe that
the Japanese perspective of the war is often misguided with feelings of anger and hatred towards the Japanese. I believe it
is due to a misunderstanding of the culture. My goal is to describe the culture and Japanese side of the war, and focus on
the Kamikaze Pilots, an often controversial topic.
First of all, my ties to Japan come from my mother who was born and raised in Japan. My name, Hana, means flower in
Japanese, and I have always felt that Japan is a big part of my life. I have been there every summer since I was a baby, and
have deep connections to the culture and surroundings. My Japanese family consists of my two grandparents, my aunt, my uncle,
and my cousin. They all live together in the same house, a tradition that is kept in Japan. My grandfather, Kichiji Amagasa,
served in World War II in the navy, and still feels a lot of pain and heart-ache when speaking of the war. I was originally
going to interview him for this assignment, but realized that it was too painful for him to talk about and describe. Although
I do not know any Kamikaze pilots personally, I felt that this topic needed to be addressed, for they are generally viewed
as terroristic enemies of World War II. However, there are many reasons behind this kind of behavior.
The Kamikaze pilots were Japan’s last attempt to gain the technical and military advantage over the American
forces advancing to Japan. These pilots were pilots who committed suicide attacks on American warships
in the last year of World War II. Kamikaze means “Divine Wind” signifying the amount of honor that went into this
tactic. Kamikaze pilots focused their attacks in the battle of Okinawa, to reach the main ships in the center, the aircraft
carriers. The first wave of Kamikaze attacks was about 355 pilots – six American ships were sunk and ten were severely
damaged. A total of about 5000 Kamikaze pilots were launched and 36 American ships were sunk while 368 severely damaged. Despite
this enormous sacrifice, Japan ended up losing the battle and eventually the war.
“So why this behavior?” you may ask. Although the pilots terrorized many Americans, there was a rationale
behind this behavior. Japan’s cultural values signify the amount of honor and value that Japanese had in their country,
just as any other country. They simply went to the extreme lengths to save their country, in a partial belief that the country
was about to undergo extinction. The point I am trying to make is that the Japanese felt like they had no other choice. It
was a desperate attempt to save themselves, to die with honor rather than surrender. Although it is hard for many to understand,
Kamikaze pilots was a decision that the country felt forced to make. I believe the real tragedy of this is the fact that human
nature leads us to wars in which people believe they must commit suicide to save their country. The pilots truly believed
that it was either “us or them,” and volunteered in order to save their families. As Hatsuho Naito said in his
novel, Thunder Gods: The Kamikaze Pilots Tell Their Story, “I myself was opposed to the suicide missions, but
given our desperate situation near the end of the war, there was nothing else we Japanese could do.”(Naito 206).
In conclusion, I would
just like to say that I am neither terrorized by nor in agreement with the Kamikaze tactics, but only wanted to show another
side of the war – the Japanese perspective. I embrace both American and Japanese cultures, and am proud of both.
I only hope people will view this essay as another perspective.
Naito, Hatsuho. Thunder Gods: The Kamikaze Pilots Tell Their Story. Bunghei Shunju, 1982.